Sunday, February 26, 2017

Hamptons + Holyoke Read Project



Five communities are coming together during March and April in a new partnership called Hamptons + Holyoke Read. The inspiration for this multi-community initiative is the book Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison by Piper Kerman, popularized by the Netflix series. Spearheaded by the public libraries in Holyoke, Northampton, Florence, Easthampton, Southampton and Westhampton, Hamptons + Holyoke Read is sponsoring dozens of events exploring incarceration through discussion, art, film and lecture. Community partners for this project are wide reaching including Holyoke Community College, Historic Northampton, Wistariahurst, Prison Policy Initiative and UMass Amherst Public History Program.

Originally published in 2010, Orange is the New Black tells the true story of the author, a Smith College graduate, who served a 15-month sentence in a federal women’s prison for drug trafficking. Although the book and to a larger extent the Netflix series give a narrow and often unrealistic view of prison life, the organizers of Hamptons + Holyoke Read are using this book as a jumping off point to encourage community conversations about pervasive issues of mass incarceration affecting our communities and our nation.

There are currently 2.2 million people serving time in the United States, which represents a 500% increase over the last 40 years according to the Sentencing Project, a nonprofit research and advocacy group. In  Massachusetts alone there are nearly 20,000 people currently serving time. The State Senate will be discussing three important criminal justice related bills this year and nationally prison policy is receiving lots of attention. “The topics raised by this year’s community reading event are extremely timely and important. Participants will have the opportunity to increase understanding and foster conversation about the past, present and future of prison and its impact on our society,” said Lisa Downing, Hamptons + Holyoke Read Co-Chair.

Copies of Orange is the New Black are available to borrow from the participating libraries. For a complete list of events and exhibits please visit forbeslibrary.org/hhr.

Concurrent with Hamptons + Holyoke Read, the national exhibit States of Incarceration: A National Dialogue of Local Histories is coming to Holyoke and Northampton during the month of March. For more information about the exhibit and related programs, please visit https://pv-soi.org/.

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